The materials and techniques used in the paintings of Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Joanna Russell, Brian Singer, Justin Perry, Anne Bacon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Materials from 38 paintings by Francis Bacon (1909‐1992), including 21 complete works and 17 partially destroyed canvases are investigated. Observations are made of the artist's technique and details are compiled of the supports used. Samples of paint and priming were taken for analysis using polarized light microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), gas chromatography‐mass spectrometry (GC‐MS), pyrolysis‐GC‐MS (Py‐GC‐MS), and scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM‐EDX). Analysis of priming layers appears to show that the priming composition correlates well with particular ranges of dates. A fairly limited range of materials are found, with many of the same pigments found in works spanning Bacon's career, though other pigments were introduced at different stages in his career. Oil paints were used consistently for the painting of figures, but household paints were increasingly used in backgrounds from the 1960s onwards. A variety of different synthetic media are found in later works, including household acrylic paints and spray paints. Increased knowledge of Bacon’s materials is expected to be of great value to conservators caring for the work of this highly significant artist, and is already helping in the authentication of works attributed to him.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-217
JournalStudies in Conservation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'The materials and techniques used in the paintings of Francis Bacon (1909-1992)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this